Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Jaleswar, Feb 20:
The over 50-year border dispute between Odisha-West Bengal has taken a new turn with sand mafia encroaching almost half a kilometre into Odisha territory.
Officials of the revenue and settlement department at Dantun in neighbouring state allegedly assisted the sand mafia of Malpara village located in Mohanpur Tehsil of Paschim Medinipur district in West Bengal to encroach around 500 metres into Odisha territory and erected red flags for demarcation, reports said.
It may be noted here that the Subarnarekha river divides the two villages and stands as a demarcation of territories between the two states. However, rampant illegal sand mining has changed the course of the river which has deviated from its path towards Odisha villages. Farm lands on the Odisha side have become barren due to the sand running over to their fields.
With the new sand deposition in Odisha territory, the sand mafia of the neighbouring state have been digging illegally causing loss to the state exchequer.
On February 14, Odisha officials had cracked down on illegal sand quarrying in which three persons were arrested and a truck was seized. In protest against the official action, the West Bengal sand mafia became vindictive and intruded into Odisha territory, sources said.
Following this, tension prevailed in the bordering villages of Behera Sahi, Munatunia, Totapada, kuanrpur, Mankadia, Olamara and Rajnagar in Odisha.
Yesterday, Jaleswar Tehsildar Dr Rajanikanta Biswal and local police uprooted the flags and seized them in the presence of Odisha villagers in Behera Sahi. However, many flags are still flying high in other Odisha villages, reports added.
Notably, there is a border dispute along the West Bengal border in as many as 82 villages in Baleswar district and 90 districts in Medinipur.
The Odisha villagers have blamed the state government for the longstanding border dispute saying it had failed to resolve the tussle over reclaiming the territory since last over 50 years.
‘‘The West Bengal government’s high-handedness won’t be tolerated as they have encroached into our land. Moreover, they have been mining sand in our territory. We have been demanding a permanent solution to this, but to no avail,’’ a villager said.
It may be mentioned here that the encroachment of land by the West Bengal sand mafia is not an isolated case of border dispute. There have been several issues that fuel the border dispute. It may be recalled that border dispute between the two states had emerged during the construction of a Marine police station at Udaipur under Bhograi block last year.